Hell’s Business

I wake up to him lounging at the foot of my bed, sipping coffee. And since I don’t have any coffee, that means he must have filched some of my roommate’s. He leans over, whispering scraggly tones at my ear. “Finally, you’re awake. Up and at ’em. Took you long enough!” As I slide my way out from under the covers, and before my feet contact the ground, he’s laying into me. The barrage of insults mingles with my chipper morning alarm song on my phone, and it’s hard to pick out the chorus from his condemning tune.

My favorite female vocalist promises me a “Good Morning.”

As usual, he has a different morning in mind, for me. And it’s all my fault.

“Better hurry up!” he snickers. “Who knows how long that song has been playing? You don’t want to wake up your roommates, do you?” I slip across the floor to my alarm, fumbling to turn it off.

“Look at that!” He gestures toward my roommate’s recumbent form in the top bunk. “I think she just stirred.”

I raise an eyebrow at him. “Uh, she’ll fall back asleep. She told me so, last night. As long as she’s tired enough to be asleep, she’ll pretty much stay that way.”

“Maybe if she hadn’t moved yet,” he points out, “but she’s clearly waking up, here.”

I look back at her. She looks asleep to me.

“So,” he says, and rubs his greasy hands together. “What’s on tap for today?”

I,” I say, emphasizing my independence, “have a ton of homework to do.”

His lips curl into a creepy purple grin, and he cocks his head inquisitively. “Oh? Do tell.”

I sigh and reach for my phone to check the weather before answering. I don’t really notice what the app says, though, as I begin listing off my responsibilities. “I have that essay due for World Lit, tomorrow. Plus, I need to work on my project for two or three hours…”

I look at the phone again, making myself concentrate on the forecast. Currently 56, with an anticipated high of 78. That means if I dress to be comfortable now, I’ll be sweating by noon. Of course, I’ll have to come back to change for work between then and now.

I head for the closet, figuring I’ll wear a sweater. That way, I can take it off if I get too warm.

I hadn’t noticed him disappearing, but he’s waiting inside, when I open the closet door. Maybe I should be scared, but I’m used to him.

As I reach for my navy blue cardigan, he clicks his tongues and waggles an index finger warningly at me.

“Aren’t you forgetting something?” he asks.

I shrug before removing the fuzzy cardigan from the hanger. “I’m not wearing my PJs out. I just happened to go to the closet first. You got a problem with that?”

He raises his hands, palms up, in a conciliatory gesture. “Oh, sure, fine. That’s up to you. I figured you would want to work out, this morning. That’s all. But really it’s up to you.”

“Maybe,” I sigh, “I was planning to work out later today. Did you ever think of that?”

“Hey. Don’t blame me.” He straightens his tie. “I’m just doing my job.” He gives me a disdainful look up and down. “And speaking of my job, didn’t you tell me yesterday that you were going to work out later?”

“Yeah…” I fumble. He has me there.

“But did you?” he prompts

“No.” I look down. He gently takes my hand and leads me to my mirror.

“I’m just trying to help,” he says softly. He pushes my chin up, so I can see myself. “You don’t want to forget again, do you?”

“I didn’t forget!” I protest. “I didn’t have time.”

“You’re right! Silly me!” he smacks his palm against his forehead. “But you did have time to watch a movie with your boyfriend.”

“I needed a break,” I say, lowering my gaze again.

“On a Monday?”

“You’re right. I’ll workout first.”

 

He taps my shoulder as I begin foraging for a tank top in my drawer. “Of course,” he reminds me, “you will be putting exercise above God, if you do that.”

I hadn’t thought of that.

“But, then, you have been so vain lately,” he purses his lips sadly, “that probably is your first priority.”

“No, I‒ I wouldn’t say that.” I feel tears wetting my eyes.

“When did you last read the Bible?” he squints trying to remember.

“Yesterday! Don’t try to catch me there.”

“Psh! What? One measly Psalm?” He laughs. “But don’t worry. God probably doesn’t mind. I mean, it’s not like He’s done that much for you, anyway. Oh wait…” concern plays across his pasty face. “There was that dying thing.”

I barely open my mouth to agree. “Yeah…”

“Look.” He lifts my chin to meet his eyes. “I’ve heard this theory‒ and it may be an old wives’ tale, mind you. But I have heard that God is ‘forgiving.’ Don’t take my word for it, though.  I could be wrong.”

I hope it’s true, about God forgiving me.

“So,” he continues. “Why not settle into a nice little devotional, and maybe, if God’s in a really good mood, He won’t smash you to smithereens.”

I guess it’s worth a shot. I reach for my Bible as he nestles into an armchair.

“What,” I ask. “No privacy?”

He shrugs. “Hey, just doing my job.”

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